Cheerleader Travels from Japan to Dance for Thunder
By Jacqueline Sit, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY – There are many dedicated and decorated Thunder fans, but one traveled all the way from Japan to be cheer on the team.
Naoko Ishii was a cheerleader for several Japan Basketball Leagues in Tokyo. With the help of a translator, the newest Thunder dancer she shared her story with NEWS 9.
"This is my last year as a dancer and I want a challenge as a dancer," Ishii said.
Ishii has a dream for her hometown. She wants to try to grow a new generation of dancers in Japan, but her lifelong dream was cheering with an NBA team.
"I was kind of scared to come down here for dance team, because I could not speak English," Ishii said.
But the girl from Tokyo puts her nervousness aside and landed a spot as an Oklahoma City Thunder girl.
Ishii said the people in Oklahoma City are amazing. But she does miss her family. Ishii is happily married and couldn't have pursued her passion without the support of her other half, half a world away. Just the thought of her loved ones and fans in Japan lights up her face.
"I received lots and lots of message from Japan everyday and I talk to my husband on the Skype. So I'm always contacting and keeping in touch with them," Ishii said.
Life in the states is tough for this cheerleader, who is living on her own for the first time, away from everyone and everything she knows.
"I've already experienced a hard time with the cultural difference and language difficulty so every day feels like struggling," Ishii said.
She's adjusting to life in a new country. From simply calling for a cab to communicating in English is a new lesson in every moment.
Anything normal for most people can be difficult for Naoko Ishii, but she said it's a good experience and she's excited for the future.
Ishii said she'll be dancing for the Thunder just for this season, but she's embracing her new American family in a new city while living the dream.